Excitebots: Trick Racing
For: Nintendo Wii
From: Monster Games/Nintendo
ESRB Rating: Everyone (mild fantasy violence)
By Billy O'Keefe
For all the credit "Wii Sports" garners as the Wii's gateway drug, perhaps no Nintendo-branded game better demonstrates the benefits of motion controls than "Excite Truck," which launched
on the same day and aptly set itself apart from other racing games in ways no non-Wii game ever could.
The entirety of that game exists within "Excitebots: Trick Racing," which lifts the controls and methodology and inserts them into an entirely bizarre but blissfully fun racing experience starring giant, mechanized bugs and animals.
Like "Truck," "Excitebots" asks you to hold the Wii remote sideways and tilt it like a steering wheel to control your bot's steering. The setup isn't particularly conducive to precision steering and hairpin turns, but it also doesn't need to be. "Excitebots" prefers hilly straightaways to sharp corners, overtly encouraging players to drive recklessly and constantly ride the fast, fine line that separates edge-of-seat control from unwieldiness.
That strong embrace, combined with "Excitebots'" unique metrics for success — winning races is helpful, but racking up stars via dangerous driving and gravity-defying turbo jumping takes precedence over everything — make for a racing experience that's wildly exciting and completely casual at once. Achieving gold medal scores is a worthy pursuit for skilled players, but anyone who can hold the Wii remote can enjoy "Excitebots" on some level.
The inclusion of mechanized turtles, ladybugs, bats and other creatures is the most overt symbol of distinction between "Excitebots" and "Trucks," but it isn't the only one. The off-road tracks wouldn't look out of place in more traditional racing games, but Monster Games has littered them with ridiculous bonus contraptions ranging from stunt triggers to bowling pins to a constructible sandwich. Take advantage of these and other surprises littered around the track — including the cool landscape-altering triggers previously found in "Truck" — and you'll have all the stars you need to unlock additional tracks and bots.
Annoyingly (and puzzlingly), you'll also need a few good single-player runs to unlock the game's multiplayer content. "Excitebots" includes splitscreen (two players) and online (six) play, but you'll have to play through the first batch of single-player races to access it. Fortunately, it's worth the small wait: "Excitebots" ranks right up with "Mario Kart" in terms of its online suite, and being able to bet accumulated stars on races is an amusing feature with obvious upside.
Finally, there's the entirely unexplainable inclusion of the Poker Race mode, which tasks you with simultaneously winning the race while also forming the best poker hand using cards littered around the track. Why? Who knows. Who cares. Like everything else in "Excitebots," Poker Race is there for your enjoyment more than your understanding, and it serves that purpose beautifully.
(c) 2009, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.